Obviously emotions were running hot on Sunday night after referee Ted Unkel ruined what promised to be an entertaining match between two of the Eastern Conference’s contending teams. One Orlando City supporter allowed emotion to cloud their judgment and posted Unkel’s business contact information on Twitter.
Is this acceptable behavior @OrlandoCitySC @mls— Undeniable LP ⭐️ (@LikkitP) June 6, 2017
(I blurred the personal information from my screen cap) pic.twitter.com/bpLhjSEUlG
Although it was not specifically a threatening post, it did come off to readers as sort of a backdoor “wink-wink” invitation for others to harass the PRO referee. Orlando City responded with a club statement today regarding the social media post by the supporter, who has since removed the post and declined comment for this story.
We asked @OrlandoCitySC for a response to the supporter sharing Ted Unkel's info and encouraging harassment. Their statement: pic.twitter.com/PKsKt578id— Jason Davis ⚽ (@davisjsn) June 6, 2017
Since the embedded version might be hard to read, the club’s response was:
“Orlando City SC does not agree with the message posted on social media by a supporter group member nor does it condone this behavior with any official within our league. While the supporter groups are organizations independent from the Club, we are working closely with them to avoid further promotion of this and ensuring they understand the serious implications this type of message can carry. We encourage all of our fans to passionately support their team in a safe and respectful manner, and regret seeing this behavior and reaction from a fan following an intense and exciting game in Orlando on Sunday.”
An Orlando City spokesperson said that the club's supporter group liaison was in communication with the supporter who posted the comment on his personal twitter account. The club asked him to remove the post, which he did. Because of this, the club and league have decided not take any further action. The supporter was warned of the serious nature of the incident and advised to consider the potential consequences of such a post.
Just minutes into the Lions’ match against the Chicago Fire at Orlando City Stadium, Unkel sent off right back Rafael Ramos – making his first appearance of the season with the first team following a series of hamstring issues – for a challenge that appeared to be an accidental collision between two players going for a 50/50 ball.
If Orlando City’s chances at victory were seriously damaged by that decision, the opportunity vanished entirely with the second-half straight red to Antonio Nocerino. The Lions held on for a hard-fought 0-0 draw to salvage a point from the match but much of the discussion afterward – including some from ourselves – was centered around the veteran referee rather than team or the game itself.
This social media situation does not appear to be covered specifically under the club’s Fan Code of Conduct, which deals mainly with fan behavior at games, and the use of alcohol, smoking, etc. The Ruckus Code of Conduct does not specifically address social media but does ask members, “Please do not take part in any activities which would bring shame or embarrassment to the Ruckus or Orlando City Soccer Club.”
Although a specific code of conduct for the Iron Lion Firm was not immediately apparent on the group’s website, there is a set of behavioral directives included in the group’s by-laws during the membership sign-up process. The ILF by-law rules do not specifically address social media conduct guidelines but do outline a three-strike policy for misconduct.